How to use hearing aids with assistive technology
Assistive technology is any device or computer software that helps you do an everyday activity, such as watching TV or chatting on the phone, that you’d otherwise find difficult or impossible to do.
There’s a wide range of assistive technology for people with hearing loss. Hearing aids can make a huge difference to your hearing, but, in some situations, they are not enough.
This can be the case on the phone – when you cannot see the person you’re talking to, they may have an unfamiliar accent, and the quality of the connection may be poor.
In these situations, assistive technology can help.
Assistive listening devices such as a remote microphone or an FM system (often called a radio aid) can help you hear speech in noisy places. These are small, wireless microphones that you place close to the sound you want to hear – for example, near the person speaking. The microphone picks up the sound you want to hear and sends it directly to your hearing aids.
For group conversations, a table microphone might help. When you place the microphone at the centre of a table, it can pick up the speech from all around the table and send this straight into your hearing aids.
If you use hearing aids, a hearing loop can help you pick up speech sounds more clearly, especially if you are further away. It focuses your hearing aid to pick up sound from the loop system microphone, rather than all noises in the area. This helps to cut out background noise.
To use a hearing loop, you need to have your hearing aid switched on to the hearing loop setting. Your audiologist may need to do this for you. Find out more about how to use your hearing aids.
Hearing loops are available:
- in various public places – you’ll know there is a hearing loop if you see the ‘T’ sign displayed, but you may need to check with staff that it’s switched on
- in landline phones designed for people with hearing loss
- in your mobile or smartphone
- for use at home, if you want to use them with your TV or radio.
A TV streamer is a device that you connect to your TV set – it sends the sound from your TV directly to your hearing aids and you can adjust the volume and tone so it’s easier to hear the dialogue. They need to be compatible with your type of hearing aid.
Bluetooth streamers allow you to stream the audio of a Bluetooth device, such as your phone or radio, directly into your hearing aids. Some hearing aids are Bluetooth compatible and do not need a streamer.
Most smartphones have accessibility features that allow you to improve the sound on phone calls. Most also have a ‘hearing aid’ or ‘Telecoil’ (hearing loop) setting to allow you to use the phone with your hearing aids on the hearing loop setting.
Some phones will also allow you to adjust the tone or even set up a personal profile where you can boost the tones you struggle to hear.
Some newer hearing aids will also connect to your phone through Bluetooth wireless technology, so the sound is sent directly to both hearing aids.
If you struggle to hear on your landline phone, you can get hearing aid compatible phones. Some phones will have Telecoil and when you switch your hearing aids to the hearing loop setting, only the signal from your phone’s earpiece will be amplified (made louder). Other phones will connect directly to your hearing aid when in range. This may make the speaker’s voice easier to hear.
You can also get telephones that have adjustable settings for volume and tone, which may help. If you have a standard home phone and would prefer to keep that, there are adapters that you can buy and plug-in to increase the volume.
You can buy alerting devices that are extra-loud, use flashing strobe lights and vibrate to alert you to alarms and other sounds. You can buy devices for a particular sound, such as your doorbell, or a multi-alerting system that can alert you to different sounds – for example, your doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm.
Several apps for smartphones and tablets also give you the option of receiving alerts through your phone – but they may not suitable for critical safety alerts.
Find out more:
If you are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus and need free confidential and impartial information and support, contact RNID.
We’re open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Get more information by email
At RNID, we offer free information and support to the 12 million people living with hearing loss in the UK.
Sign up for a series of emails from our Information Team to find out more about getting hearing aids, including:
- the types of hearing aids available
- communication tips while you wait for them
- and how you can look after them.